The HyperTexts

by Michael R. Burch

Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning, Tone, Diction and Literary Devices

If you are a student, scholar or educator interested in writing a paper about the Holocaust poem "Something" or have any other interest in the poem, you can read the author's own analysis and explanations below. You are also welcome to email him if you have questions or comments at (please be sure not to miss the "r" between his first and last names). Musicians and composers are also welcome, as more than 30 of his poems have been set to music by 17 different composers.

You can find Burch's analysis of his poems here: "Auschwitz Rose" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Something" Analysis, "Will There Be Starlight" Analysis, "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Poetry" Analysis,  "Self Reflection" Analysis

Following the poem "Something" and its analysis by the author, you can find other poems by Michael R. Burch on the very important subjects of racism, ethnic cleansing and genocide. What follows are his comments in his own words.

This was the first non-rhyming poem and the first free verse that I wrote as a young poet, in my teens. The poem came to me from "out of blue nothing" ...

by Michael R. Burch

―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality has swept into a corner ... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning: "Something" is a poem about loss, a lament and an elegy of sorts. The poem's main theme is loss: the ultimate loss of death with lives slipping through our fingers like vapor. The lines came to me from "out of blue nothing," to borrow a phrase from my friend the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier. This was the first poem I wrote that didn't rhyme, and my first free verse poem. The poem came to me completely unplanned, however, and seemed to materialize on its own. I wrote it as a teenager, either toward the end of my senior year in high school or during my freshman year in college. I later dedicated "Something" to the children who died in the Holocaust and Nakba. It is, to put it simply, a poem of the heart and a poem of despair that such terrible things are possible.

Tone: The poem's tone can be described as somber, regretful, lamentatious, grieving, mournful, sad.

Poetic Diction: The poem's language is similar to that of an elegy or eulogy: formal, reserved, reverential. One can imagine the poem being read at a funeral for the victims of a school shooting, for instance.

Literary Devices: The poem's primary literary devices are imagery and metaphor, with each image being a metaphor for loss. The sounds of the words help convey impressions and feelings of loss, sadness and insubstantiality. However, I must admit that in this case I didn't choose the words. It was more as if they chose me. The poem also employs understatement with the title and refrain "Something." This use of understatement is expanded upon in the "Title" section below.

Title: While it may seem like a nebulous term, I think "Something" suits the poem. In this case the "something" in question is actually of the utmost importance, so both the refrain and title are ironic. These lost "somethings" should have mattered immensely but to much of the world they apparently didn't and quickly became an afterthought. That is sad commentary on the human capacity for denial, but evidently true. We should not be using the term "something" in reference to the lives of our fellow human beings, especially children, but the poem's accusation is unfortunately supported by the weight of massive evidence, including but not limited to the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears and the Palestinian Nakba.

Genres: The poem is an elegy, a eulogy, a lamentation, a Holocaust poem and a protest poem similar in concept to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."

Publication History: "Something" has been published by There is Something in the Autumn (anthology), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Promosaik (Germany), Setu (India), Borderless Journal (Singapore), Boloji (India), FreeXpression (Australia), Poetry Super Highway, Poet’s Corner, Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse and Life and Legends. "Something" has also been used in numerous student Holocaust projects over the years. It has also been translated into Romanian by Petru Dimofte and into Turkish by Nurgül Yayman, turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong, and used by Windsor Jewish Community Centre during a candle-lighting ceremony.

Bio: Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories and letters have appeared more than 6,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3,, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Unlikely Stories and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google's rankings, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Haiti, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books, Violets for Beth (White Violet Press, 2012) and O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013). A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed. Burch's poetry has been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by nine composers. His poem "First They Came for the Muslims" has been adopted by Amnesty International for its Words That Burn anthology, a free online resource for students and educators. He has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the poet, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

You can find links to Burch's analysis of other poems of his at the bottom of this page. The poems and analyses that follow here are related to the themes of racism, ethnic cleansing and genocide ...

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

by Michael R. Burch

for mothers of Gaza who have lost their children

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
—Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

by Michael R. Burch

Black waters,
deep and dark and still . . .
all men have passed this way,
or will.

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of the Holocaust and Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

I pray tonight
the starry Light
surround you.

I pray
by day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere the morrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.

who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same —
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

My nightmare ...
by Michael R. Burch writing as The Child Poets of Gaza

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.

I, too, have a dream ...
by Michael R. Burch writing as The Child Poets of Gaza

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve such scorn.

Suffer the Little Children
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?

Lockheed, Take Heed
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

Terror fell upon my children. Wailing,
they ran toward my arms—small, pale with fright.
They seemed eternities from me . . . so distant!
Their day exploded. Now I live in night.

"Made in America." I find that tragic.
Though far less tragic than my sweet doves, blown
to atoms by your profits’ ill-bought magic.
Land of the "brave," the "free"? Brave freedom’s flown
to heights unknown—too high to see my people
crushed in the dust by those you love so well.
Sing hymns. Praise God. Erect some higher steeple.
Condemn my kind to poverty, and hell.

"Shock and awe?" Yes, I feel awe—and shock.
You jackals killed my doves, my lambs, my flock!

Apollyon I - Night of the Apocalypse
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

His eyes meet mine with blank incomprehension.
How did you come, my friend, to harm this child?
She was not mine, and no report’s been filed.
So what, old chum?" (Strange lines beyond my scansion.)
          A girl so sweet, if woebegone?
         Why, surely she was everyone’s!
He lifts his eyes, shifts, sighs, spits, unbeguiled.

He does not know that I have come to judge him.
"What’s it to you?" he threatens, with a leer.
She was my child . . .
That thing defiled?"
Ten trillion wavering stars blink, disappear.

Her Slender Arm
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

Her slender arm, her slender arm,
I see it reaching out to me!—
wan, vulnerable, without a charm
or amulet to guard it. Flee!
I scream at her in wild distress.
She chides me with defiant eyes.
Where shall I go? They scream, "Confess!
Confess yourself, your children lice,
your husband mantis, all your kind
unfit to live!"
                      See, or be blind.

I cannot see beyond the gloom
that shrouds her in their terrible dungeon.
I only see the nightmare room,
the implements of torture.
shocks contort her slender frame!
She screams, I scream, we scream in pain!
I sense the shadow-men, insane,
who gibber, drooling, Why are you
not just like US, the Chosen Few?

Suddenly, she stares through me
and suddenly I understand:
I hear the awful litany
of names I voted for. My hand
lies firmly on the implement
they plan to use, next, on her children
who huddle in the corner. Bent,
their bidden pawn, I heil Amen!
to their least wish. I hone the blade
"Made in America," their slave.

She has no words, but only tears.
I turn and retch. I vomit bile.
I hear the shadow men’s cruel jeers.
I sense, I feel their knowing smile.
I paid for this. I built this place.
The little that she had, they took
at my expense. Now they erase
her family from life’s tattered book.
I cannot meet her eyes again.
I stand one with the shadow men.

The Least of These
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

Here lies a child of the Holocaust.
And here all her dreams lie buried, unknown . . .
lie buried, unlived. And who knows the cost?
No roses grow here by this stone stark as bone.

"Dearly Beloved," her white marker reads,
as many bright sermons on Love have begun,
but this is her end. She lies among weeds
more somber than widows’ six feet from the sun.

Whom shall we cherish? O, whom shall we love?
The war profiteer, or the peaceable dove?
"Made in America," this Cruise Line said:
now Palestine’s dove lies here—cold, shattered, dead.

Here lie her pieces. Friend, read them, and weep.
Stand firmly for justice, or lie in your sleep.

The Horror
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

the Horror is a child who died because
we closed our eyes to tribal Nature’s laws,
who knows no justice, but red fangs and claws

the Horror is the child we led to stray
into dark wilds where evil Men hold sway,
abandoned her, then swiftly walked away

now she lies dead, and many innocents!
the Tiger prowls; He longs to kill; He pants
for blood, as children die, unheard, like ants

the Tiger rules by Law, red Claw and Tooth,
while Barnums laugh, count Beans, and sip Vermouth.

In her dread repose (I)
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

Find in her pallid, dread repose—
no hope, alas!, for the Rose.

In her dread repose (II)
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

Find in her pallid, dread repose—
no hope for the World. O, my violated Rose!

Lines for a Palestinian Mother and Child
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

I swear her eyes were gentle . . . that she was
a child herself, although she bore a child
close to her breast: her one and only cause.

I watched in apprehension as men filed
in close, goose-stepping ranks on either side,
as if they longed for blood, on Eastertide.

I thought of women slain for being born
the "wrong" race, sex, caste, or the "wrong" religion.
I thought of Joan of Arc, her tunic torn,
her breasts exposed, her bloody Inquisition.

I felt the flames and then her screams explode.
I thought of Mary and her dolorous road.

When will religion learn men must repent
of killing even one mild innocent—
whether before or after Lent?

US Schoolboys
by Nakba, a pseudonym of Michael R. Burch

The simple path to peace
begins with a single step,
as the sun breaks bright to the East
though the schoolboy has long overslept.
O, when will he rise and yawn!
Will he miss how dew spangles the lawn?

The simple peace path begins
when the schoolboy repents of his sins,
for his balmy vacation’s long over.
There’s no time to be lolling in clover!
Now that the bright day has begun,
he must rise in accord with the sun.

The path is called Justice . . . and now
he must walk it, and stoutly avow
to follow wherever it leads
till the sun sets its blaze to the weeds . . .
He must thresh, so his brothers can find
peace’s path, though the world seems blind.

Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I still love her and enlist this sacred fire
to keep her memory's exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles;
they sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons."
                                           Sleeping, all.
Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                          Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

First They Came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by such an outstanding organization as Amnesty International, one of the world's finest. Not only is the cause good―a stated goal is to teach students about human rights through poetry―but so far the poetry published seems quite good to me. My poem appears beneath the famous Holocaust poem that inspired it, "First They Came" by Martin Niemöller. Here's a bit of background information: Words That Burn is an online poetry anthology and human rights educational resource for students and teachers created by Amnesty International in partnership with The Poetry Hour. Amnesty International is the world’s largest human rights organization, with seven million supporters. Its new webpage has been designed to "enable young people to explore human rights through poetry whilst developing their voice and skills as poets." This exemplary resource was inspired by the poetry anthology Words that Burn, curated by Josephine Hart of The Poetry Hour, which in turn was inspired by Thomas Gray's observation that "Poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn." My poem now returns a staggering 690,000 Google results, suggesting that it has been widely cut-and-pasted.

Momentum! Momentum!
by Michael R. Burch

for the neo-Cons

Crossing the Rubicon, we come!
Momentum! Momentum! Furious hooves!
The Gauls we have slaughtered, no man disapproves.
War’s hawks shrieking-strident, white doves stricken dumb.

Coo us no cooings of pale-breasted peace!
Momentum! Momentum! Imperious hooves!
The blood of barbarians brightens our greaves.
Pompey’s head in a basket? We slumber at ease.

Seduce us again, great Bellona, dark queen!
Momentum! Momentum! Curious hooves
Now pound out strange questions, but what can they mean
As the great stallions rear and their riders careen?

Originally published by Bewildering Stories

Bellona was the Roman goddess of war. The name "Bellona" derives from the Latin word for "war" (bellum), and is linguistically related to the English words "belligerent" (literally, "war-waging") and "bellicose" (war-like, given to fighting). In earlier times Bellona was called Duellona, a name related to our modern word "duel."

Charon 2001
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, have stood—paralyzed at the helm
watching onrushing, inevitable disaster.
I too have felt sweat (or ecstatic tears) plaster
damp hair to my eyes, as a slug’s dense film
becomes mucous-insulate. Always, thereafter
living in darkness, bright things overwhelm.

Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who was born
on September 11, 2001 and died at the age of nine,
shot to death ...

Child of 9-11, beloved,
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown,
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm — I hope you hear it.

Much love I bring — I lay it down
here by your form, which is not you,
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.

Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the vicious things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.

And so I make this pledge and vow:
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.

Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short ... bereaved,
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here ...

I give my all: my pen, this tear,
this lily and this eiderdown,
and all soft things my heart can bear;
I bear them to your final bier,
and leave them with my promise, here.

by Michael R. Burch

She has belief
without comprehension
and in her crutchwork shack
she is
much like us . . .

tamping the bread
into edible forms,
regarding her children
at play
with something akin to relief . . .

ignoring the towers ablaze
in the distance
because they are not revelations
but things of glass,
easily shattered . . .

and if you were to ask her,
she might say—
sometimes God visits his wrath
upon an impious nation
for its leaders’ sins,

and we might agree:
seeing her mutilations.

American Eagle, Grounded
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,

in-flight convergence
by Michael R. Burch

serene, almost angelic,
the lights of the city                   extend
over lumbering behemoths
shrilly screeching displeasure;
                                             they say
that nothing is certain,
that nothing man dreams or ordains
long endures his command

here the streetlights that flicker
and those blazing steadfast
seem one:                from a distance;
they abruptly
part                                        ways,

so that nothing is one
which at times does not suddenly blend
into garish insignificance
in the familiar alleyways,
in the white neon flash
and the billboards of Convenience

and man seems the afterthought of his own Brilliance
as we thunder down the enlightened runways.

Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all tied up
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp.

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something more important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure!
After all, your intentions were ineluctably pure.
And what the hell does THE LORD care about palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were correct about negroes and indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.

Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

Trump’s war is on children and their mothers.
"If we are to carry out a real war against war, we will have to begin with the children." — Gandhi
"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." — Gandhi

War is obsolete;
even the strange machinery of dread
weeps for the child in the street
who cannot lift her head
to reprimand the Man
who failed to countermand
her soft defeat.

But war is obsolete;
even the cold robotic drone
that flies far overhead
has sense enough to moan
and shudder at her plight
(only men bereft of Light
with hearts indurate stone
embrace war’s Siberian night.)

For war is obsolete;
man’s tribal “gods,” long dead,
have fled his awakening sight
while the true Sun, overhead,
has pity on her plight.
O sweet, precipitate Light! —
embrace her, reject the night
that leaves gentle fledglings dead.

For each brute ancestor lies
with his totems and his “gods”
in the slavehold of premature night
that awaited him in his tomb;
while Love, the ancestral womb,
still longs to give birth to the Light.
So which child shall we murder tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?

While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump insisted that, as commander-in-chief of the American military, he would order American soldiers to track down and murder women and children as "retribution" for acts of terrorism. When disbelieving journalists asked Trump if he could possibly have meant what he said, he verified several times that he did.

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
by Michael R. Burch
written July 10, 2016

"Where's my daughter?"

"Get on your knees, get on your knees!"

"It's okay, Mommy, I'm right here with you."

where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails
when thunder howls
when hailstones scream
when winter scowls
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Four-year-old Dae'Anna Reynolds, nicknamed Dae Dae, loves fireworks; we can see her holding a "Family Pack" on the Fourth of July; the accompanying Facebook blurb burbles, "Anything to see her happy." But perhaps Dae Dae won’t appreciate fireworks nearly as much in the future, or "Independence" Day either.

Diamond Lavish Reynolds, Dae Dae’s mother, will remain "preternaturally calm" during the coming encounter with the cops, or at least until the very end.

Philando Divall Castile, cafeteria manager at a Montessori magnet school, was "famous for trading fist bumps with the kids and slipping them extra Graham crackers." Never convicted of a serious crime, he was done in by a broken tail light. Or was it his “wide-set nose” that made him look like a robbery suspect? Or was it racism, or perhaps just blind—and blinding—fear?

Lavish, Dae Dae and Castile went from picnicking in the park early on the evening of the Fourth, in an "all-American idyll" celebrating freedom, to the opposite extreme: being denied the simple freedom to live and pursue happiness. Over a broken tail light and/or a suspiciously broad nose.

Castile can be seen sitting on a park bench. Dae Dae and a friend are "running happily across the grass." Lavish, wearing an American flag top, exclaims, "Happy Fourth, everybody! Put the guns down, let these babies enjoy these fireworks!" Odd to have to put guns down to celebrate a holiday. Only in America, land of the free and the home of the brave?

where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
when the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow
where does the butterfly go?

... Now the cop’s gun is drawn in earnest, four shots ring out, Castile slumps over in his seat, a "gaping bullet hole in his arm," the vivid red blood seeping "across the chest of his white T-shirt." The cop continues to point his pistol into the car. His voice is "panicky."


The same curse a Baton Rouge police officer screamed after shooting another black man in a similar incident.

"He was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him!"

"Ma'am just keep your hands where they are!"

"I will sir, no worries."


"I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand open."

"You told him to get out his ID, sir, and his driver's license."

Little Dae Dae, sitting in the back seat, watches it all unfold. So praiseworthy when confronting the unthinkable, she seeks to console her mother, her voice "tender and reassuring" in marked contrast to the cop’s screams.

"It's okay, Mommy, I'm right here with you."

and where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

"Oh my God, please don't tell me he's dead! Please don't tell me my boyfriend went like that!"

"Keep your hands where they are, please!"

Suddenly so polite, perhaps sensing some sort of mistake?

"Yes, I will, sir. I'll keep my hands where they are."

"It's okay, Mommy, I'm right here with you."

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

More cops appear on the scene.

"Get the female passenger out!"

"Ma'am exit the car right now, with your hands up. Exit now."

"Keep 'em up, keep 'em up! Face away from me and walk backward! Keep walking!"

"Where's my daughter? You got my daughter?"

"Get on your knees! Get on your knees!"

"It's okay, Mommy, I'm right here with you."

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

"Ma'am, you're just being detained for now, until we get this straightened out, OK!"

By now the cops realize the severity of the situation and Castile's injuries, which will result in his death within twenty minutes of the shooting.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"

"Please don't tell me my boyfriend's gone! He don't deserve this! Please, he's a good man. He works for St. Paul Public Schools. He doesn't have a record of anything. He's never been in jail, anything. He's not a gang member, anything."

Lavish begins praying aloud: "Allow him to be still here with us, with me … Please Lord, wrap your arms around him … Please make sure that he's OK, he's breathing … Just spare him, please. You know we are innocent people, Lord … We are innocent. My four-year-old can tell you about it."

Lavish asks one of the cops if she can retrieve her phone.

"It's right there, on the floor."

"Fuck! It has to be processed."

The cop speaks to Dae Dae, who has started heading back to the car.

"Can you just stand right there, sweetie?"

"No, I want to get my mommy's purse."

"I'll take care of that for you, OK? Can you just stand right there for me?"

The cops continue to treat Lavish as a suspect. She later said that the cops "treated me like a criminal ... like it was my fault."

"Can you just search her?"

Mother addresses daughter tenderly: "Come here, Dae Dae."


"Don't be scared."

Lavish informs Facebook Live: "My daughter just witnessed this."

She tips the phone's camera to the side window of the squad car: "That's the police officer over there that did it. I can't really do shit because they got me handcuffed."

"It's OK, mommy."

"I can't believe they just did this!"

Lavish cries out, sounding "trapped, grief-torn." Dae Dae speaks again, "mighty with love," a child whose "quiet magnificence" commands us to also rise to the occasion.

"It's okay, I'm right here with you."

And a little child shall lead them.


NOTE: The quoted parts of this poem were taken from a blow-by-blow account of the incident, "The Bravest Little Girl in the World," written by Michael Daly and published by The Daily Beast.

The Vision of the Overseer’s Right Hand
by Michael R. Burch

“Dust to dust ...”

I stumbled, aghast,
into a valley of dust and bone
where all men become,
at last, the same color . . .

There a skeletal figure
groped through blonde sand
for a rigid right hand
lost long, long ago . . .

A hand now more white
than he had wielded before.
But he paused there, unsure,
for he could not tell

without the whip’s frenetic hiss
which savage white hand was his.
Copyright © 2001 by Michael R. Burch

Originally published by Poetry Porch

Poet to poet
by Michael R. Burch

I have a dream
pebbles in a sparkling sand
of wondrous things.
I see children
variations of the same man
playing together.
Black and yellow, red and white,
stone and flesh, a host of colors
together at last.
I see a time
each small child another's cousin
when freedom shall ring.
I hear a song
sweeter than the sea sings
of many voices.
I hear a jubilation
respect and love are the gifts we must bring
shaking the land.
I have a message,
sea shells echo, the melody rings
the message of God.
I have a dream
all pebbles are merely smooth fragments of stone
of many things.
I live in hope
all children are merely small fragments of One
that this dream shall come true.
I have a dream . . .
but when you're gone, won't the dream have to end?
Oh, no, not as long as you dream my dream too!

Here, hold out your hand, let's make it come true.
i can feel it begin
Lovers and dreamers are poets too.
poets are lovers and dreamers too

I wrote the poem above as a teenager, after being inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which is also a poem in my opinion.

War, the God
by Michael R. Burch

War lifts His massive head and turns ...
The world upon its axis spins.
... His head held low from weight of horns,
His hackles high. The sun He scorns
and seeks the rose not, but its thorns.
The sun must set, as night begins,
while, unrepentant of our sins,
we play His game, until He wins.

For War, our God, our bellicose Mars
still dominates our heavens, determines our Stars.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the poet, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

You can find Burch's analysis of his poems here: "Auschwitz Rose" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Something" Analysis, "Will There Be Starlight" Analysis, "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Poetry" Analysis, "Self Reflection" Analysis, Understatement Examples from Shakespeare and Elsewhere

The HyperTexts